First let me say I am from the generation just before everyone got a trophy. I believe only champions get a trophy. I do not believe you get an A for effort or second is just as good as first. I know the difference.
Still, I believe this team and Ray Tanner deserve a parade for the third straight season because they have earned it. I believe with my entire heart they are why we have amateur sports and why we all care. They are more than a baseball team.
I have personally seen my father, who has struggled in the economy to make ends meet as a craftsman, save everything he has to get a ticket and parking spot to see the majority of the last three seasons. (Yes, he is the one with the long beard who often challenges Matt Price as the best beard at Carolina Stadium). I have also seen an uncle, himself an alumnus, taken way too early at the age of 46. I have been grief stricken, but also saw his wife and niece, no longer connected by a fun-loving, energetic uncle connect over comical texts and Carolina baseball. They no longer had the uncle and husband to connect them, but they are still connected by baseball and the alma mater they love, The University of South Carolina. Connected by this team.
Those are just two personal stories I have, but every time I went to the ballpark, I saw dozens of faces with the same stories, whether it was the economy or tragic loss driven, this team gave us something to believe in during trying times. Something to reach for, the perfection of the College World Series. Roth. Price. Walker. Marzilli. Matthews. These are all names that will soon be lost in the lore of the greatest team to ever lace up cleats, but for this writer they were much more than that. They were a team that gave every person in South Carolina (yes even Clemson fans) something to believe in and something to hope for. Everything cannot always work out in the real world, but somehow it always did at Carolina Stadium.
I have a plea to have a parade anyway. Fly your flags with as much spirit as if we had just won the College World Series. Wear your shirts with "Fear the Fish" and "2-time National Champions" proudly, and remember that you were an important part of what made this team so great.
This team has given us hope in despair. If they can come back and win against Florida, Virginia and Arkansas, then there is still hope. Not a single member of this team became an All-American this year or had the highest batting average, but they found a way to win and gave the people who rooted them on, something to believe in.
Go Cocks, Battle, Win Anyway and Fear the Fish are not just something you say, but words we live by.
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.